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Day Zero

February 6, 2020

download-1Day Zero, by Kelly DeVos, is a new YA post-apocalyptic novel by the author of Fat Girl on a Plane. The heroine, nicknamed Jinx, is a 17-year-old girl who has been doomsday prepping with her father for half her life, so she is ready when the apocalypse comes. The plot of the novel is entirely too plausible, but the way the political turns out to be personal for Jinx and her family is a little too neat, even if it does tie up the loose ends in a very satisfying way.

The apocalypse begins on Day Zero, when Jinx and her younger brother and stepsister barely escape from an explosion at a bank. The president, just elected in a surprise victory for a political party called The Opposition, blames the other political party, The Spark, for the explosion. He was elected because of his success at blaming members of the other party for everything that has gone wrong with the economy, creating what is called the “New Depression.” After Day Zero, the president is able to declare martial law and hunt down all his political enemies:
“Last night, shortly before 7:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, five First Federal facilities became the latest target of domestic terrorism. I know you will join me in offering thoughts and prayers to the victims of this violence. I wish I could stand before you and say that these attacks on my family’s financial institutions—banks that have been the motor of our national prosperity for nearly a century—were directed toward me alone. However, early credible intelligence indicates that these dark deeds were the work of The Spark under the direction of the organization’s leadership at the highest level and, therefore, a direct assault on our republic. November’s election was a hard-fought battle, and my hope was that we’d be entering a period of hard-won peace. But this will not be possible when our rival political party and its candidate will not accept the results of a lawful election.”
Not plausible at all, is it? I worry that we may never see another U.S. election, let alone a lawful one.

Jinx’s father is not only a doomsday prepper, he’s a former member of The Opposition and a computer programmer who teaches programming at Arizona State University. All these things come together as Jinx and her brother and stepsister are on the run from government officials who want to question them about what their parents have been doing. At one point they’re tired and hungry (which is a big problem for Jinx’s little brother, who has diabetes) and they’ve encountered some adults who seemed willing to give them shelter and food, only to find out that instead they have turned them in:
“’Try to understand,’ she says to my brother, pleading, her pleasant veneer disappearing for a second. ‘We sunk our life savings into this place, and since the New Depression…well, the people who mighta wanted to stay in this kind of place can’t afford to travel. We thought we’d be able to retire. To help our grandkids…and now this thing with the banks…Fifteen people walked outta here without payin’ this morning, and on the TV they say it could get worse.’”
It’s at this moment that Jinx realizes that “The Opposition wanted to keep people desperate enough to do anything.”

One of Jinx’s father’s former students, who writes computer code and has helped with the president’s plan to create chaos and then seize emergency power, says what people who help Nazi types always say: “They would have found someone. If not me, then someone.” And Jinx’s stepfather says what people who resist authoritarian governments always know, that the president’s “most dangerous attacks will be against our ideas, against our hope for the future, against our faith in each other. He’s going to destroy anyone with a shred of credibility or integrity, anyone willing to stand up to him, anyone willing to do what’s right. Until all that’s left is a version of reality he creates and controls.”

This is a novel, so there’s a satisfying resolution and the promise of a sequel. In real life, I guess we’ll see.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2020 4:37 pm

    Sounds like a pretty good book, but all too realistic for me to bear right now.

    • February 6, 2020 5:51 pm

      It is chilling. I think more of us need a warning right now. Every time the president moves the bar lower, everyone just seems to crouch and say “well, this is how we have to cower in modern life.”

      • February 6, 2020 9:20 pm

        Ugh, exactly! I also think this book would raise my blood pressure a little too high. But I’m glad to know it exists, for those who need to read it.

        • February 7, 2020 8:01 am

          I think my blood pressure is already high, so it’s actually a relief to read something where the world isn’t “fine.”

  2. February 6, 2020 9:43 pm

    P.S. I’m writing a post about some of the blogs I’m following in 2020; would it be ok if I mention Necromancy? I definitely want to be sure if people are confortable with Pingbacks.

  3. February 8, 2020 4:49 pm

    Oh God. This sounds all too real.

    • February 11, 2020 11:43 am

      I made it sound more real than it is in the novel because that was my focus as I thought about the experience of reading it. The story centers on Jinx’s family, who are the epicenter of all the action, her mom’s side of the family on the side of “The Spark” and the father trying to escape his former association with “The Opposition.”

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